Bishop Dwenger senior Elizabeth Maxson and junior Audrey Rang have been friends since early elementary school. They are also tennis doubles partners who have been playing together so long they could practically be related.
They react instinctively together on the court, winning 23 straight matches last year before losing in the state finals to Highland twins Abigail and Vanessa Madrigal. This year, Maxson and Rang are undefeated again and hope for an eventual rematch with the Madrigals.
The unique thing about Rang and Maxson is that each is also dealing with potentially debilitating back injuries.Bulging disks required Maxson to wear a back brace for the last two years, and Rang was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in her back and hips before the start of last season. Doctors suggested she sit out last season, but, with Maxson's help and encouragement, Rang fought through the pain.
Then in the offseason, both trained extensively to strengthen their core muscles to take pressure off their backs. Now, Maxson leaves her brace in the car, enjoying the renewed freedom and mobility on the court. An all-area singles star before her diagnosis converted her into a doubles player, Rang is just determined not to let her teammates or Maxson down. She knows this is Maxson's last year in competitive tennis.
``We're just going to do the best we can and never give up,'' Rang said. ``It will work out.''
Maybe through sustained willpower.
``We play for our team and our school, not for us,'' Rang said. ``Everything else that is outside is blocked out.''
``We say we're not dealing with that, and that' s our strategy,'' Maxson said. ``It's never a dull moment with us.''
They do it together, just like everything else. They trained together all winter, took lessons and listen to the same songs before matches. They are together all the time, including a unique stretching routine to loosen up their backs.
``We make jokes together,'' Maxson said. ``If either of us is having a bad day, we know what to say.''
And on the rare times when both are having bad days?
``We just hit the ball a little harder,'' Maxson said with a grin.